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Into Africa
Who Are NASA's Earth Explorers?

The student thinking about El Niño. The scientist studying climate. And the farmer looking at satellite images. All of these people are Earth Explorers. They're all curious about how Earth works. This is a story about a NASA Earth Explorer.

Adam Johnson studying the land in Ghana
Image above: Adam Johnson studies the land in Ghana. Credit: Coppin State
Adam Johnson is a college student. Douglas Reardon is his teacher. The two went on a pretty neat trip earlier this year. They went to Ghana to study the land there. Ghana is in western Africa.

Ghana has an important link to history. It's where many Africans became slaves. A slave is a person who is forced to work for someone else. Slavery was common 200 to 600 years ago. Now it's illegal to have a slave.

Slaves were often shipped from Africa to the Americas. Many of the ships left from the coast of Ghana. Slaves were kept in forts while they waited for their ships. A lot of the forts still exist today.

Adam and his teacher wanted to learn more about the land near these forts. They wanted to know how the land has changed over the years.

They started by looking at satellite pictures of the area. Satellites go around or "orbit" the Earth hundreds of miles above. From space they can take pictures that show large areas on Earth. The pictures showed that many trees have been cut down. And that farmers have replaced the trees with plants and crops.

Map of Ghana and smaller world map showing where Ghana is in relation to the rest of the world
Image above: This map shows where Ghana is in relation to the rest of the world. Credit: Wikipedia
But what kinds of plants and crops? Sometimes it's hard to see all the details from space. That's why Adam and his teacher went to Ghana. They wanted to see the land with their own eyes. Going there helped them see things more clearly.

This project was special. It mixed science with history. Science can be fun by itself. But it can be even more fun when mixed with other subjects.

Adam plans to do similar work after college. He says that he likes to solve problems. And that he likes to use satellites and other tools. He says that the Earth is always changing. And that he wants to help keep track of the changes.

See previous Earth Explorers articles:
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Related Resource
Kids Science News Network™: How do satellites help us study Earth from space?
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Dan Stillman, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies